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The rules for a Druid's Wild Shape ability say "When you transform, you assume the beast’s hit points and Hit Dice." But the stat block for "A monster's hit points are presented both as a die expression and as an average number."

Now, for your typical monster that the DM controls, the DM can of course choose whether to just take the average or actually roll for how many hit points it should have. But here, it's a player that's using the monster's stat block.

So, does the player choose whether to take the average or to roll for hit points for their new form? Do they need to roll because the ability to just take the average is a DM-only thing? Do they need to just take the average because that's the standard "monster statistic"? Or does the DM pick each time just like they'd pick for a monster, even though it's for a player?

I'd prefer official sources or references if available. If there aren't any, then I would accept any semi-official or well-informed well-reasoned arguments, preferably backed up by whatever evidence is available. Obviously as with any rules interpretation the DM has the final say, but I'm usually the DM and I'm not sure what to do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems like a good thing to tweet Crawford and ask, now that his vacation is apparently over :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 16 '18 at 20:28
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The closest thing I can see applying is that, as a player character, you can choose to take average hit points or roll for them every time you take a level.

Each time you gain a level, you gain 1 additional Hit Die. Roll that Hit Die, add your Constitution modifier to the roll, and add the total to your hit point maximum. Alternatively, you can use the fixed value shown in your class entry, which is the average result of the die roll (rounded up).

I'd make the case that it's always the PC's choice, since it's still the hit points of the PC we're talking about, and with RAW they can choose their HP generation method at any time they roll.

There's no rule that I've found that provides an exception that would allow the DM to dictate PC hit points, or any other character feature choices for that matter. So, unless someone else finds one, I interpret that as being the player's choice.

5E's 'exception based' design principle provides support for that. Crawford has said on record that if a spell or an ability doesn't explicitly define a feature or limitation, then don't infer it to be there. The example was: Fire Bolt says it sets unattended things on fire, so it does. Produce Flame doesn't say that, so you don't have to spend time figuring out if it does or it doesn't; it just doesn't. I would interpret that to mean: since there isn't something specific in the Wild Shape rules, don't infer anything beyond what players already do for their hit points.

Whether they always take average, or always roll, or roll once and keep that number for a given animal for the life of the character... that also seems like a good place for a character-driven decision that becomes part of their flavor, and I'd need something compelling to take that choice away.

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According to a tweet from Mike Mearls, you take the printed average (note that Mike Mearls' tweets aren't considered authoritative):

@mikemearls When a druid wildshapes, does the druid gain the new forms max hp or the printed average hp; i.e. Dire Wolf 5d10+10=60HP or 37HP

@knlndrs printed average

However, as is oft repeated by the designers of D&D 5e and answers on here and other sites, it is up to the DM. As a.k.a. Snowman points out in the currently accepted answer allowing for a choice can lead to some very interesting situations and roleplay that might be fun for the group.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Put the answer here because this currently the top result for this question and the sage advice post is the a bit further down the page. \$\endgroup\$ – The Great Java Nov 29 '18 at 3:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Mike Mearls is not a rules authority and his rulings aren't considered official. Many times he has gotten the rules wrong... But in this case I think he's generally right, in that by default you'd go with the average HP. The DM could rule that they can roll for HP instead, but I don't think there's an official rule either way. Regardless, they definitely don't automatically get the max HP possible, as that Twitter user suggests. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 29 '18 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just thought Sage Advice column was generally considered somewhat authoritative. Apologies if that was a misunderstanding on my part. \$\endgroup\$ – The Great Java Nov 29 '18 at 21:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, only Crawford's tweets are authoritative, per the Sage Advice Compendium. (Though tweets in general are not the "Sage Advice column". That refers to these entries on the D&D website.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 29 '18 at 22:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I was fooled. Turns out sageadvice.eu is actually just a fan site. Should I amend the answer in anyway to reflect that? \$\endgroup\$ – The Great Java Nov 30 '18 at 23:53

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